After replacing Steve Carroll, now with Golf Canada, as executive director of the Canadian PGA earlier this year, Gary Bernard hit the ground running, so it shouldn’t come as any surprise to him that his six-month anniversary in the job is already upon him.
It didn’t hurt that Bernard had served as interim executive director after Carroll departed and one of his first missions once he landed the full-time post was one he was familiar with after his years as Canadian PGA director of eduction.
Not only did Glenn Cundari replace Lindon Garron as president of the association at the annual general meeting in March, but also on the agenda in Moncton was a vote by the membership on PACE (Professional Advancement, Career Enhancement), which had been sent back for a retooling the year before.
This time around, the membership passed it in a vote.
“Those of us who were involved with PACE and really closely and passionately involved with it – and that includes a number of volunteer committee members across the country, board members – over about eight or nine years from the very beginning, we were all very disappointed when it didn’t get passed the first time,” said Bernard.
“When you look back now, I think that was a good thing because we engaged the members, probably in a more productive way, and personally, I think we have a better document,” he added. “We went back and reworked it and I guess the vote is pretty indicative of that because it was passed overwhelmingly.”
With a new PACE document, which will likely require the odd amendment somewhere down the road, to start with, the Canadian PGA also made a significant move in association tournaments with the arrival of Mr. Lube as title sponsor and Cleveland/Srixon as presenting sponsor of the Seniors’ Championship.
Bernard calls the new relationship more than just a sponsorship, but a partnership. “When (director of business development and brand) Jeff Dykeman was able to secure that partnership, we were all thrilled,” he said. “They had representatives from their executive team there the entire tournament.
“I spoke with (Mr. Lube president and chief operating officer) Stuart Suls and his team, Brent Cuthbertson and Georgia Dahle, they’re just thrilled with the way it worked out,” said Bernard.
“We couldn’t have written a better script as far as having a big-time partner of that nature and then, have them come to our event and see what it’s all about and get to meet our pros. I think they were particularly impressed with our guys who participated in the pro-am.
“Every group, the feedback to Mr. Lube and to ourselves was `This was fantastic. Not only do the guys play really good golf, but they engaged us and they were funny and they were helpful and it was a great afternoon,’” said Bernard.
“It means a great deal to have that and particularly, to have such a long-term partnership. Five years in this economic climate is a huge achievement, then to have Cleveland/Srixon come along, as well. It was a home run.”
In the quest for a similar relationship on another of its tournaments, the association is still at the plate, but swinging, according to Bernard.
The Canadian PGA Championship was last played in 2005 when Jon Mills won what was a Nationwide Tour event, but it has been dormant ever since. Despite optimism at various times in the five years since, including around AGM time in March, there has been no announcement.
“We’re still very hopeful,” said Bernard. “It’s the same, old story – we really want to make sure that we’re not so much going after sponsorship as opposed to really looking for partners. Certainly, that’s what we’ve achieved with our other partners, the latest being Mr. Lube and Cleveland/Srixon.
“We want to make sure that the value is there for corporate Canada, as well as for our members, so it’s just not a one-way street and it’s not a hit-and-miss and it’s here today and gone tomorrow,” he added.
“Personally, I’d love to see it happen next year for our centennial. I think that would be a wonderful thing. We’re still percolating. We haven’t got the water boiling, but the heat’s still on and we haven’t turned the burner off,” he said.
The 100th anniversary of the association in 2011 will become a greater focus as this year progresses, both at the national office and among committee members in Ottawa, where many of the celebrations are planned, including a golf day and gala banquet.
The association is already feeling out how many members and PGAs from around the world will be present. “We’ve had responses from all the major PGAs around the world that they will have it on their calendars and be sending a representative,” said Bernard.
“It’s going to be a great day for the Canadian PGA, but I think it’s also going to be a great one for golf in Canada. We’ll make sure all of our partners are involved and engaged,” he said, adding it will be unfortunate that all members from across the country can’t make it.
“It’s the geographic nature of the country and also the fact that it is in the middle of July and it is the middle of the season, To that end, we’re working hard with the zones to make sure that there are activities that can be shared by all,” said Bernard.
He added that commemorative gifts and mementos to mark the occasion will also be available to Canadian PGA members and that the national office is looking into ways of communicating the celebrations in Ottawa back to members across the country via the association website.
“We’re looking into trying to fill that gap because there are a lot of members of that association who would love to be in Ottawa,” he said.
So, as he heads into his second six months on the job, there is plenty yet to be done, but Bernard says he is pleased with the staff at the national office, including the recent hirings of Morgan Court as education administrator and Adam LeBrun as coordinator of tournaments and events.
“I’m really proud of the team we’ve assembled,” said Bernard. “We’ve got a very young, well-educated, dedicated staff, I told them the other day in a staff meeting, if I was a baseball manager, none of them would be on the trading block.”
Sounds like he’s still gunning for a few home runs.